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Swimming Pool Projects.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 17 February 2005

Thursday, 17 February 2005

Ceisteanna (5, 6)

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

5 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if submissions have been received from South Dublin County Council regarding a swimming pool in Lucan since a previous parliamentary question from this Deputy of November 2004; the funding stream which exists for new swimming pool applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5165/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

14 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if studies have been carried out into the number of swimming pools per area on a population basis; his views on whether Lucan is seriously lacking by having no swimming pool on the basis of its population; if direct action is planned by his Department to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5158/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (11 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 14 together.

This Department has not received any submission from South Dublin County Council for the provision of a swimming pool in Lucan since the previous parliamentary question by Deputy Gogarty on the subject, which I answered on 1 December 2004. The current local authority swimming pool programme, which is administered by my Department, was closed to applications on 31 July 2000. The programme does not include the provision of a swimming pool in Lucan as South Dublin County Council were proposing at that time to provide a pool there on the basis of a public private partnership arrangement.

Although there are no plans to reopen the programme at present, my Department is carrying out an expenditure review which will assist in the formulation of policy for future programmes. The review is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to the areas where pools have been built and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. As part of the analysis, the review will address the question of the population catchment area. The potential contribution of options such as private sector involvement in the provision of swimming pool facilities will also be evaluated.

I am glad the Minister took the time to answer this question, given that he considers that questions on legislation on funding for women in sport does not fall within his remit. I would like to discuss that at a later date. We know the story about the bureaucracy of South Dublin County Council and the long delay in the guidelines for public private partnership. We know that the Department has stated that the public private partnership process is not necessarily the best way to develop the swimming pool. Given the size of Lucan in comparison to towns such as Birr, which has had a swimming pool for many years, if an application came in from South Dublin County Council and if a concerted community effort was made to push for a swimming pool at the Lucan Sports and Leisure Centre or at Adamstown, what response would the Minister give? Would he make a special case for it, given that Lucan is the fastest growing town in Ireland?

I have the greatest sympathy for the people of Lucan. I regret the fact that no application arrived in respect of Lucan from South Dublin County Council prior to the deadline on 31 July 2000. This deadline was well advertised and everyone knew about it. We received a considerable number of applications from all around the country, including the Dublin region. In 2002, in response to a query about a possible project in Lucan, the following advice was given.

Any guidelines in relation to the involvement of local authorities in a public private partnership approach to the procurement of swimming pools will be finalised in the context of launching a new programme. Local authorities will be notified by this Department when the new programme is initiated.

However, no such new programme was launched. The reality is that we have several applications on hand at various stages, from preliminary report stage right up to tender stage. We received no application from Lucan prior to the closing date of 31 July 2000. Had we received an application from Lucan, it would have received the priority which it unquestionably deserved. The difficulty is that we do not have a new swimming pool programme at this point. When a new programme is launched, we will advertise for it in the same manner in which we advertised on the previous occasion.

I do not understand why there was no application from Lucan, but I do not think that Deputy Gogarty is so unreasonable as to blame me or my Department for the failure to put in an application on behalf of the people of Lucan.

Will the Minister make a special case?

The difficulty with making a special case is that there are several other applicants across the country who feel that a special case should be made for them. Indeed, I have met deputations in that respect. The real difficulty is that I do not have a new programme at the moment. In Monaghan the municipal pool closed down due to serious damage and the special case was allowed. If it were at all possible to allow others for the same reason, then I would be disposed to do so.

The unfortunate situation is that Lucan does not fall within that category. That is no consolation for the people of Lucan. I will try to find out if it is possible to formulate some new programme which might help us to advance pools in places like Lucan. Even in the last couple of years, it is true that the demographics are changing dramatically. Areas that may not have felt it necessary for a pool a few years ago now feel that it is absolutely vital. It is important that the Government keeps up with people's desires, needs and wishes. I hope that we will have a new programme and that we can move along with this. We will certainly keep this under review.

Will the Minister intervene to ensure that repairs are carried out to the National Aquatic Centre as soon as possible?

We might be moving away from the question.

The Minister was about to answer.

Deputy Deenihan eloquently made his views known on "Morning Ireland" during the week. We are trying to move that issue along.

The Minister says that he has no new programme at the moment. How has the existing programme advanced regarding the refurbishment and replacement of swimming pools? Is that complete or is there a number of applications sill outstanding?

The swimming pool programme has been very successful so far. We have 15 projects completed, ten others are at construction stage, two are at tender stage, 12 are at contract document stage and 16 are at preliminary report stage. Of that 16, nine are now seeking approval preliminary reports, two are preparing preliminary reports and five have submitted feasibility studies. There is great interest in this programme. If we were to advertise a new programme in the morning, we would have further interest straight away.

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